DIY Solar pool cover towing boom for €20

A towing boom is something that fits to the leading edge end of the cover and allows you to pull the cover onto the pool easily and without water spilling onto the top of it. My floating ‘bubble’ pool cover didn’t come with a tow boom so instead of paying over €100 for a commercial kit one I made my own for about €20!

The floating cover on my swimming pool saves wasting thousands of litres of water through evaporation but it was difficult to put the cover on the pool quickly. It is easy to become complacent and not bother covering the pool following an early morning swim.

How I made it

This was a DIY project full of improvisation which I kind of made up as I went along – just as any competent DIY tinkerer does! It is certainly not a precise construction guide.

Materials

  • Bungee cord. (Elastic ‘rope’). Readily available from hardware shops. I bought 10m at €0.20c a metre.
  • Pool noodles. Flotation aids also known as worms/logs (with hole through the centre). I used 3 and they cost around €4 each here in Cyprus.
  • Plastic eyelet washers. These come in two pieces and snap together, usually sold for use on tarpaulin sheets. I got a pack of 10 for about €3.
  • CarabinersMetal spring clip things to attach to the bungee cord. They don’t need to be expensive as you’re not going to be using them to hang off cliffs!  Mine cost about €0.20c each and 4 were used in this project.
  • Plastic piping. This is to put through the centre of the noodles to hold them together and add some rigity. I bought a 4m length 20mm pipe for about €2 (my pool is 4.5m wide but with the rounded corners the actual leading edge of my cover is about 3.8m). For longer lengths some pipes can be linked together as they have a wider mouth at one end or you can get short connector pieces.
  • Straps or waterproof rope. This is to create the ‘hook’ triangle which is attached to the bungee during deployment of the cover. I actually had some spare straps which are used to attach the cover to the roller so I used them. They are about 1m long and I used two of them.

Construction

  1. Cut noodles to length and insert pipes. With the cover out of the pool on your deck/patio lay one noodle in the centre of the leading edge. Do not cut this one. Place one noodle on each side of the centre one and cut to length to match the full width of the leading edge of the cover. Now insert the plastic piping through the hole in the centre of the noodles and cut to length.
  2. Attach strap(s)/rope. Temporarily slide the noodles so there is a gap on each end of the centre noodle. Tie a strap (or waterproof rope) around the piping on each end of the centre noodle and then slide the noodles back to close the gap. Tie the other ends of the two straps together by folding back about 20-30cm and tying to create a loop which you can attach a carabiner to. You could just use a single 2m length of strap or rope – improvise – that’s how I did this project in the first place!
  3. Attach boom to cover. Pool cover in place with tow boomThe boom is attached to the cover using short lengths of bungee cord threaded through the plastic eyelets. Mark where to put the eyelets and depending on the type you either push them together from each side of the cover and that process creates the hole or pre-cut the hole. The short lengths of bungee cord are stretched slightly around the boom and the ends tied in a knot on the underside of the cover.
  4. Make an anchor on pool steps rail. As you can see in the video I used another piece of bungee cord tied to the base of the handle/rail with another carabiner on it. This is used to clip the main length of bungee cord when deploying the cover.
  5. Main bungee cord. The main length of bungee cord has a carabiner tied to each end and is used as shown in the video. I experimented with different lengths of bungee cord for the best tension results. My pool is 9m long and I ended up with a length of bungee cord that was 4.5m un-stretched. The key thing about using bungee cord here instead of rope is that it allows the the ‘semi-automatic’ bit as shown in the video by deploying the first part of the cover as you unwind the pool cover roller.

About my cover

Although I have referred to my cover as a solar cover it is not actually the kind that raises the temperature the water to prolong the swimming season. My cover is a heat reflective cover. In Cyprus during the peak summer season you really don’t want the water being heated up. If you take the cover off you lose the benefit of reducing evaporation. So I found a company based in the UK called Plastipack Ltd.  who make a cover designed to reflect the suns rays called CoolGuard so it doesn’t have the effect of heating up the water. It does still have the effect of retaining the ambient temperature of the pool so the water doesn’t cool down much at night. This is good before and after the peak season here but during the hotter months I sometimes leave the cover off at night to let the water cool down a bit.

The video above was made in 2009 and the cover has weathered a bit since then as can be seen in this photo. The cover still functions perfectly though and the Twiglet the cat likes it too.

Pool cover and a cat

Update: 2017, 8 years later…

After almost 8 years of service it’s time to order another Plastipack (or Geobubble as they call themselves now) CoolGuard cover. In the last year I think many of the bubbles have become perforated and as a result have taken on water. It still floats OK, reflects the heat and eliminates evaporation but when wound onto the roller it is really heavy and difficult to move. The manufacturer says the cover has a life span of only 6 years – I have to disagree, and I don’t exactly look after it!! I never cover it when it is on the roller and in the winter I just leave it with no chemicals in the pool and let the weather, dirt & grime do it’s worst, only scrubbing it down in the spring. Cyprus summers are harsh to anything left out in the sun, our pool gets no shade and Summer temperatures (in the shade) can be in the 30’s from May through to September/October peaking close to 40 degrees in August.

It is possible that the perforations are a result of general misuse – when I clean it I just lay it on the stone patio and zap it with a high pressure jet washer while walking all over it – not the best way to treat it! I reckon if I’d taken a bit more care of it it wouldn’t need replacing for another few years. It is also possible that the repeated high speed excursions by cats across the cover may also have had something to do with the recent demise of some of the bubbles!

UPDATE!!! August 2017: My new CoolGuard cover with ‘GeoBubble’ technology has arrived in Cyprus – I’m just waiting to get a proper tow kit shipped here (I decided to ‘splash out’ this time) before I install it do my follow up blog and video – details to follow!

Thanks to the guys over at www.weather-beater.com for liking my blog post – if you’re in USA/North America and want to get yourself one of these covers they can help you.

It is not a Safety Cover

Floating ‘bubble’ pool covers are not safety covers. They cannot support the weight of a human or large animal such as a dog (cats seem OK though). If your pool requires safety provision, for example because there are children around, then a child proof fence is a great solution. Check out my friends over at Safe-T-First Pool Safety who sell those and other pool safety solutions – Lloyd, the owner of the business, has also put loads of great info on their website about pool safety.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below.

8 Responses

  1. danieljrichardsmecom says:

    Hi Mark, loved your solution, thanks for sharing. I am currently making a very similar solution based on your design. I’ve decided to use Heavy Duty zip ties to connect the tow boom to the cover (through the plastic eyelets). Any reason I should not do this that you can think of? I think it’s amazing that you are the only one that made one of these, for years I have neglected to use my cover as it was too hard to put on every day. Now with electricity and chemical prices so high, can’t afford not to.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for the nice comment.

      The zip ties sounds like they could be a good idea. The only reason it might not be as good as the bungee cord is they might cut into the cover material if too tight. But The bungee cord did have a habit or rotting a little after being submerged in water after a couple of years. Zip ties wouldn’t have that problem unless they get UV damage from the sun and become brittle.

      • danieljrichardsmecom says:

        Good point, I’ll keep you posted. I did select zip ties that were designed for outdoor use and had UV protection. I also chose zip ties that are 1/2 inch wide (12.7 mm) as to not cut into the cover. We will see how it all works out.

  2. Mark says:

    Hi Interesting post I will definitely copy your design. When did you get this CoolGuard Cover from?
    Thanks
    Mark

    • Mark says:

      I got my original from https://www.poolsafeguard.com/ in Cyprus but I’m not sure if they still sell them. The problem you may find will be depending on where you live. In the UK there are a number of websites that sell CoolGuard covers – just do some Googling or contact Plastipack directly.

      I think this company in the UK, https://www.covers4pools.co.uk sells CoolGuard covers and also claim to do worldwide delivery, but the covers can be quite bulky so shipping can get expensive.

      In north America you could try contacting this company: https://www.coloradolining.com

      Good luck and thanks for the feedback.

  3. Al Diaz says:

    Thanks so much for getting back to me! I just sent them an email, hoping they will do the same for me! I can’t understand why nobody carries or makes a Tow Kit here in the US. It just completely boggles my mind. Very frustrating! Im really looking forward to the new vid,, i must of watched yours a 100 times,,,, lol. Thanks again for your help, and will get back to u on what they say.

  4. Al Diaz says:

    Hi there,, do u know of ANY Tow Kits that would ship to the US? I like your version (or whom evers version this vid is), but would love one of these U.K. only selling stores to send me one already made. Been scouring the internet and all the Leading Edge/Solar Tow Kits are shipped only in the U.K. ugggh

    -Al Diaz

    • Mark says:

      I had the same problem when I wanted to get a proper tow kit for my new cover I got last year – I live in Cyprus and the shipping costs from the UK were really high. Turns out it was because of the polystyrene worms/noodles (whatever you call them) that go in the tow kit. They are quite long so pushed the shipping ‘category’ to oversized. So it was gong to cost £60+ to ship to Cyprus. I came up with a solution though, buy the kit without the noodles! I did that with this company: poolwarehouse.uk.com. The shipping cost came down dramatically and they reduced the price a bit since they were not sending the entire kit. I just bought 3 noodles locally for about €3 each and used a length of PVC piping to go through the middle of them (best to get noodles with a hole down the center for this purpose). Problem solved. When I get round to it I’ll be making a new video of my new cover with this tow kit – WHEN I get round to it!!

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